OTTAWA — Mexico’s president arrives in Canada today to begin three days of carefully choreographed North American leader summitry.
Enrique Pena Nieto is heading to Quebec City first before dining with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Toronto and then hitting the national capital on Tuesday for an official state visit.
The Mexican president will then join Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama for Wednesday’s North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa, commonly known as the Three Amigos.
Last year’s trilateral summit was cancelled amid the Canada-U.S. dispute over the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and an ongoing Canada-Mexico fight over visa requirements.
Keystone XL has since been formally rejected by the Obama administration, while Canada’s visa requirement for visiting Mexicans remains an irritant that sources say won’t likely be fully resolved this week.
However Trudeau and Pena Nieto will be looking for a public display of Canada-Mexico co-operation — likely centring on climate action — as a counterpoint to the trade protectionism and anti-immigrant sentiment that has marked this year’s U.S. presidential race.
Experts say it will be in Obama’s interest, as well, to broaden the North American relationship in hopes off cementing his environmental policy legacy and insulating the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, from political mischief.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has advocated tough new immigration policies, border defences and possible new trade barriers while the Democrat’s Hillary Clinton is expressing reservations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
Britain’s shocking referendum vote Thursday to remove the country from the 28-member European Union has rocked international markets and destabilized Europe, providing a sharp international contrast to this week’s expected North American love-in.
“We are looking to align ourselves, the three partners in NAFTA, as closely as possible to demonstrate that in North America we understand how creating growth that benefits our citizens and protecting the environment for future generations are not opposite goals but are very much complementary in the 21st century,” Trudeau said at an Ottawa news conference last week before the Brexit vote.
Trudeau’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, made it explicit on the weekend when she told CTV that the Three Amigos summit, set against the Brexit backdrop, sends “a great message to the world that we’re working together.”
Trudeau and Obama have already established a warm personal relationship that appears to transcend the usual Canada-U.S. niceties, but the American president is entering the final half year of his administration and may be looking to lock in some of his policy gains, particularly on the environmental front.
In March, during Trudeau’s state visit to Washington, Canada and the United States agreed to cut methane emissions 40 to 45 per cent below 2012 levels by 2025.
Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas — about 84 times more potent over a 20-year timeframe than carbon dioxide, according to the Pembina Institute — and also among the cheapest ways to cut GHGs, since methane is a marketable byproduct of oil and gas production and storage.
Getting Mexico into a common North American methane reduction agreement would help anchor March’s bilateral deal and be good for the environment.
According to McKenna, it may also be close to a done deal.
“I can’t let the cat out of the bag, we’re still working hard with the Mexicans and Americans, but I think there’s a real opportunity to see some progress there,” she told CTV.
After Pena Nieto’s departure on Wednesday afternoon, Obama will become the first U.S. president in 21 years to address the joint houses of Parliament with a speech in the House of Commons.